Hey, how's Congress doing with that national debt?

Last week, however, Ribble went home for the holidays with little to show for all the political drama. The debt stood at $15.1 trillion, $1 trillion more than when he got to town. By the end of next year, projections show, it will grow by an additional $1 trillion. Ribble said he and his allies had cut spending for 2012 by only about $7 billion, a sliver so tiny Ribble could measure its impact in minutes.

“We’ve saved the American taxpayer about 17 hours of spending. That’s it,” he said. “When you just really stop and think about it, we’ve made very little progress.”

Look past 2012, and the budget deals of the past year make a more significant dent. They reduce spending by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years, the largest debt reduction in two decades. Yet no one, of any ideological stripe, is bragging about the accomplishment. Instead, the Capitol is pervaded by an atmosphere of failure, of opportunity blown.